By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Congratulations on your inauguration. It was a defining moment in American history, but you must realize that as you enter the White House, you will be faced with many challenges, not the least of which is the puppy you promised your two young daughters.
I also am the father of two daughters, Katie and Lauren. They’re all grown up now, but when they were 9 and 7, about the same ages as Malia and Sasha, my wife and I got them a cat named Ramona. In August, Ramona will turn 20. She’ll probably outlive me. Anyway, Ramona was the first in a menagerie that includes three other cats and a dog named Lizzie.
Lizzie is a mutt like us. We got her when Lauren was 12. A woman who lived near Lauren’s friend Holly was looking to give away a 6-week-old puppy and wanted to know if Lauren would take her. Initially I said no because we lived in a condo. Still, the woman told Lauren to take the dog overnight. If we didn’t want her, we could return her. If we did want her, she was ours.
Naturally, I fell in love with the little pup, so we decided to keep her. The next morning, however, the woman called to say that she wanted the dog back. Lauren started to cry, at which point I got on the phone. Words were exchanged, threats were made, a custody battle ensued. Finally, in an effort to be fair, and mature, and reasonable, I told the woman I had veto power.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"If you won’t let us keep the dog," I said firmly, "I am going to call my Uncle Vito."
And that, Mr. President, is how Lizzie became a member of our family. She’ll be 14 in July and she’s the sweetest creature God ever made. By the way, you can use the Uncle Vito line when dealing with Congress.
You must know, of course, that once you have fulfilled your campaign promise to Malia and Sasha, you will have to walk the dog. You may be the president, but you are a father first, and that will be one of your chief duties.
Another important job will be to make sure that Malia and Sasha clean their rooms. This will be a great challenge. I found that out when Katie and Lauren were young. And it doesn’t get any easier as they get older.
When Lauren was home from college one summer, her room was so messy that my wife called it a disaster area. That gave me an idea: I phoned the White House to see if Lauren’s room could officially be declared a disaster area so we’d be eligible for federal funds to clean it up. Your predecessor was in office at the time, but I also felt a kinship with him because he has two daughters about the same ages as Katie and Lauren.
I never spoke with the president, who had his own messes to deal with, but I did speak with Noelia Rodriguez, Mrs. Bush’s press secretary. When I asked if President Bush had ever declared Jenna and Barbara’s rooms disaster areas, she said, "That would be classified information."
Speaking of rooms, you will have to keep yours clean, too. You can’t be like me and leave your dirty underwear all over the floor – unless you want them to be news briefs. After all, it’s the White House, and your wife, Michelle, will want it to look good when she gives tours.
As for the kitchen, you might want to find out what’s in your cabinets after you fill your Cabinet. Wives get miffed when their husbands don’t know where things are.
And don’t worry about unpacking everything. My wife, Sue, and I have been in our house for almost 11 years and I still haven’t unpacked some of the boxes in the garage. The longest you’ll be in the White House is eight years, so if Michelle gives you grief about this, tell her to call Sue so they can commiserate.
Can we guys do better when it comes to domestic policy? To borrow a familiar phrase: Yes, we can.
Well, Mr. President, from one family man to another, that’s all the advice I have for you. Good luck settling into your new home, give my best to your family and don’t forget to walk the dog.
Copyright 2009 by Jerry Zezima